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Peking man and scripts in stone

Beijing Travel Blog

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A wedding car procession on the highway

I was still trying to avoid the crowds, but also see something interesting. So I went to Zhoukoudian today.

This was the place made famous by the discovery of the Peking Man starting in the 1920's. The town Zhoukoudian was about 1.5 hours drive (about 50km) from Beijing in the southwestern direction. I figured I won't see a big crowd here, and I was right. There were only 2 tour buses in the parking lot when we arrived. They site is now a world heritage site, with a museum showing artifacts but you can also visit the actual sites of the discovery, which were caves near the museum. They had exhibits of the archelogical tools used, replicas of the Peking Man teeth, real fossil skeltons of tiger, bear and hyenas and many smaller mammals and birds, and even fish.

The map of the Zhoukoudian Peking man site, showing the various dig locations and the current museum
There were also stone tools used and even remains of ashes and burnt stones, proving that Upper Cave Man already knew how to use fire then. Another neat artifact was a needle made from a bone, and necklace made of stones, shells and bones. The Upper Cave Man got his name from the upper caver where their artifacts and bones were found. They supposedly lived between 10-30 thousand years ago. It's good to spend 1 to 1.5 hours here.

Next we went to the YunJuSi temple (Yun means cloud, ju means live, so this is the temple where clouds live, nice and poetic, right?) about 20 minutes further southwest. This is one of the 4 famous and ancient temples around Beijing. Famous for its carved stone tablets of buddhism scriptures. The nearby Shiginshan is named after the stone scriptures (Shi means stone, gin means scripts, shan means mountain).

The mountaintop caveman site
There were more than 14000 scriptures carved in stone tablets here stored in the 9 caves on Shiginshan and in underground of the temple. So we are talking about a lot of stone tablets. The earliest tablets were carved in the Sui dynasty (581-617 AD), the newest in the Ming dynasty about 600-400 years ago. So this trove of scriptures have real significance to the study of history and buddhism. It's quite impressive to see these tablets stored in the underground storage (filled with nitrogen to prevent further decay), there were just so many of them, they were stacked standing with protective layers in between. However in the caves on the mountain, there were just stacked to the gills, the caves have been closed so people can not get inside except for one cave, which was used as a small hall, more later on this cave.
The museum of Peking Man dig site

Back in the temple, although originally built more than 1500 years ago, it had been expanded over history, but during the 2nd world war, it had been bombed by the Japanese, and most of the buildings were rebuilt since. The front gate arches were original. Luckily for the statues of buddhas inside, these were bronze, and were under renovation elsewhere when the temple was bombed, so they survived and are back in the temple now. The temple also has scriptures on paper as well as wood carvings (for printings). You could print a two page scripture from one of the wood carvings and take as souvenirs (for 20RMB each if you print it yourself, or 10RMB if they do it for you).

On both sides of the temple ground were two towers, one from the Tang dynasty still stands, but the other one was destroyed when bombed by the Japanese.

Standing in the Peking Man Cave, actually not the cave part you see in the photo, but the open part, since the cave roof had collapsed, the cave is another smaller cave called Pigeon Hall cave
While clearing the debris, they found a stone carving saying there was some treasure buried underground, so they dug it  out and found the remains of some buddha relics.

After visiting the temple (they had free guides who would walk you around, so that's well worth the 40RMB ticket), I decided to visit the cave on Shiginshan, it was a 30 minute hike up a hill about 500m high. If you are fit, it would take less time. Anyway, as I hiked up, I saw these workers carrying bags of stuff up the path, so I asked what they were carrying, it turned out they were carrying sand and cement up the hill. And each was carrying about 100lb. They were paid only 10 cents RMB per lb, so that means 10RMB per trip, and they could make maybe 6-7 trips a day. It's a tough job.

The cave was locked, and they had a guid to take you to it from mid mountain, and opened the door for you to go in. This place was not well visited, so I figure maybe they get 10-20 visitors per day. But it was worth the hike and the view was good.

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A wedding car procession on the hi…
A wedding car procession on the h…
The map of the  Zhoukoudian Peking…
The map of the Zhoukoudian Pekin…
The mountaintop caveman site
The mountaintop caveman site
The museum of Peking Man dig site
The museum of Peking Man dig site
Standing in the Peking Man Cave, a…
Standing in the Peking Man Cave, …
Sign at Peking Man site, showing t…
Sign at Peking Man site, showing …
The wall of the Peking Man cave sh…
The wall of the Peking Man cave s…
From Pigeon Hall looking at the de…
From Pigeon Hall looking at the d…
A description of the Pigeon Hall
A description of the Pigeon Hall
Map of YunJu temple
Map of YunJu temple
Front gate of the YunJu temple, th…
Front gate of the YunJu temple, t…
The first courtyard in the temple …
The first courtyard in the temple…
The bell in the bell tower of YunJ…
The bell in the bell tower of Yun…
An incense burner in front of a ha…
An incense burner in front of a h…
An undestroyed ancient original pa…
An undestroyed ancient original p…
Several other pagodas at Yunju tem…
Several other pagodas at Yunju te…
A stone stele in the front, the St…
A stone stele in the front, the S…
An original stone stele with a Min…
An original stone stele with a Mi…
Climbing up the Stone Scripts moun…
Climbing up the Stone Scripts mou…
One of the sealed caves and its st…
One of the sealed caves and its s…
The one open cave which  is locked…
The one open cave which is locke…
Inside the cave, a small buddha st…
Inside the cave, a small buddha s…
A pagoda on top of the Stone Scrip…
A pagoda on top of the Stone Scri…
On Lugou bridge, the one with too …
On Lugou bridge, the one with too…
The original stone pavement on the…
The original stone pavement on th…
Beijing Sights & Attractions review
Well, if you are interested in human history, anthropology, archeology you should be interested in visiting the site of the Peking Man dig and museu… read entire review
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photo by: Deats